For the third straight year, Sen. Rand Paul won the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) straw poll. Sen. Paul won with 25.7% of the vote. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, who is seen as being in the top-tier of potential Republican candidates, got second place with 21.4%. Sen. Ted Cruz and Dr. Ben Carson had a statistical tie for third place with 11.5 and 11.4%, respectively. After those four, the remainder of those listed were in the single-digits.
Former Governor Jeb Bush, who has formed an exploratory committee, had 8.3%. Governor Bush is seen as coming from the establishment wing of the party, so the CPAC crowd was not expected to be friendly towards him. During his Q-and-A session, he was booed during some of his answers. Bush responded to the “ooo” sounds as he called them by asking those to consider him as their second choice. Bush also had supporters bused in which caused the conservative news website Breitbart to fear that he was attempting to rig the straw poll. Bloomberg Politics’s Mark Halperin did a CPAC report card of the potential 2016 contenders and gave Bush an overall grade of A-.
Carly Fiorina and Scott Walker also continued to have strong showings. Fiorina has been trying to raise her name awareness in preparation for a possible 2016 run and she painted herself as an anti-Hillary Clinton at CPAC. She touted her business record at HP and talked about her personal life, such as her fight against cancer. The crowd seemed pleased with her speech, but she only got 3% of the straw poll vote. Walker also had a strong showing and he placed second in the straw poll. His speech focused on a mix of digs at President Obama’s policies and the promotion of his. There was a bit of a controversy when he compared defeating ISIS to when he battled public unions, which some interpreted as comparing unions to ISIS.